- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008

There is still a frenzied buzz of work going on at Nationals Park with the season opener just two days away. But it’s different now. Cranes and bulldozers have been replaced by pressure-washers and brooms. The construction is complete, and it’s now just about making the ballpark look presentable.

  • Join Tim Lemke for a live chat about the stadium on Friday at 1 p.m

    Photos:Portraits of the Nationals

    Photos:Building the stadium

  • The Nationals will play their first official game there Sunday night before more than 41,000 fans. Tomorrow, season-ticket holders will have the chance to see the ballpark during an exhibition game against the Orioles.

  • TWT Video:Tim Lemke on the cost of the new stadium

  • “There are specialists now working on a thousand different little things,” Nationals president Stan Kasten said. “But I feel really good about where we are. Physically, we’re just about there already. We’re going to use the next 48 hours, and we’re going to use them wisely.”

  • TWT Video:Impact of baseball stadium on surrounding area

  • For the last several weeks, the construction team and the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, which is overseeing the project, have referenced a “punch list” that features items of concern that must be addressed before Opening Night. The Nationals and the commission have created special “hit teams” to work on items on the list.

    “What we’re really working on now is focusing on anything the team thinks is really critical and has to get done,” sports commission chief executive officer Greg O’Dell said. “Normally we’d have a longer process for this transition, but here we’re rapid-fire.”

  • TWT Video:The stadium’s architecture

  • Yesterday, there were countless little things that needed attention. A sign needed to be replaced. A television needed to be moved. Wiring and plugs needed to be tested. But the number of construction workers at the site has dwindled from a high of more than 1,200 last month to fewer than 200, and most of those workers will spend these next two days performing tasks like planting flowers, cleaning and putting on final coats of paint. Other workers will test the stadium’s Internet and phone system, cash registers and computers.

    “We knew it would be like this,” said Matt Haas, a project executive with Clark Construction. “It’s not too atypical of a major project or even atypical of all projects. You’re always finishing up details at the end, and I actually feel like we’re in pretty good shape.”

    Haas said he expected yesterday to be the final day for any construction work inside the ballpark; the only hard work left to be done involved the ballpark’s offices along South Capitol Street. Today’s work will focus almost exclusively on cleaning the site, he said.

    But even as recently as Wednesday night, there were crucial aspects of the park uncompleted. Only yesterday did the sports commission receive a certificate of occupancy to allow the opening of the Red Porch Restaurant and Red Loft Bar, and concession provider Centerplate will not have access to the restaurant until today. Officials promised it would be open for business tomorrow.

    “I’ve been in buildings and opened multiple buildings in less time,” said Chris Benevento, the general manager for Centerplate. “It’s just going to be a phenomenal push to get it done, but we’re going to get it done, and we’re going to get it right.”

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